Different Spellings of Popular Baby Girl Names

Using Unorthodox Spelling to Help a Child Stand Out

Portrait of baby girl
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Using different spellings of popular baby names started as a trend more than 40 years ago but has become common practice today, especially when it comes to girls.

While it is impossible to know when the tradition first began, most baby boomers will recall a time when it became fashionable to change names ending in "y" (like Tracy, Nancy, and Kimberly) to "e" (Tracie, Nancie, and Kimberlee).

The goal of unorthodox spelling is to help a child stand out and can make all the difference in how a young girl sees herself.

Here are some of the more popular girl names along with their alternate spellings:

Sophia and Sofia

"Sophia" is a girls' name that has remained popular over the generations. While the traditional "Sophia" has consistently ranked high on the list, the variation "Sofia" has gradually eased its way back into fashion among parents who embrace their Eastern European, Mediterranean, or Latino roots.

Among those who have led the "Sofia" resurgence are actress Sofia Vergara and film director Sofia Coppola.

Isabella and Izabella

"Isabella" is popular across cultures and has both an old-fashioned and modern appeal. The "Isabella" spelling has been a top-10 staple for the better part of the past half-century.

While the counterpart "Izabella" is not nearly as popular, it snuck its way back into the cultural lexicon with the cover of the Jimi Hendrix song "Izabella" by the group Phish in 1997.

Chloe and Khloe

"Chloe" has been popular in Western culture since its emergence in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation. Its origins, however, extend further back to ancient Greece where the term "Khloe" was an epithet for the Greek goddess Demeter.

While Khloe Kardashian has fueled a resurgence in the popularity of the name, the "Chloe" version still ranks higher on most popularity lists. This is especially true when used with a fashionable umlaut over the "e," as evidenced by actresses Chloë Sevigny and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Kristy, Christy, and Christie

"Kristy" was one of the must-have names of the 1970s and 80s, popularized by TV star Kristy McNichol and "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" star Kristy Swanson.

By late-80s to early-90s, the tide turned and "Christy/Christie" became the preferred spelling, fueled in large part by the popularity of supermodels Christy Turlington and Christie Brinkley.

While the preference is something of a toss-up today, all three variations are derived from the Latin for "follower of Christ."

Madison, Maddison, and Madisyn

This name "Madison," which surged in popularity after the release of the film "Splash" in 1980, remains one of those rare names which has a masculine root but is used almost entirely for girls. "Madison" is derived from the surname meaning "Mad's son" (with "Mad" being a common nickname for Matthew during the Middle Ages).

The variation "Maddison," meanwhile, became fashionable in recent years as Anglophiles reclaimed the more common, Northern English spelling.

On the other hand, the recent popularity of the name "Madisyn" appears to be driven by its use in urban slang, where it is an epithet for a beautiful and outgoing girl ("That girl is a Madisyn!"). Teen star Madisyn Shipman is the embodiment of the craze.

Caitlin, Kaitlyn, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Katelyn, Katelynn, and Kaitlynn

"Kaitlyn" is one of those names that both confounds and delights. You can spell it any way you want, and it still sounds gorgeous. But it also guarantees that the bearer will spend the rest of her life spelling her name out to others.

As an Irish variation of the name Catherine, "Caitlin," "Kaitlyn," and "Caitlyn" can all be found in historical records dating back to the 4th century. The more modern versions ("Katelyn," "Katelynn," and "Kaitlynn") are written as they sound, almost as if they were hyphenated.

American TV celebrity Caitlyn Jenner is, perhaps, the best-known bearer of the name today.